Decision-Making

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What the Military Can Teach Organizations About Agility

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Once bastions of command-and-control management style, U.S. military institutions have moved to the forefront of organizational and leadership agility. Today’s military leadership emphasizes efficient movement through four decision cycles — observe, orient, decide, and act — to speed up its response to external threats. It’s also investing significant resources to become more agile and experimenting with innovative solutions.

Justifying Human Involvement in the AI Decision-Making Loop

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Though AI is far from perfect, vast training data has given smart systems formidable accuracy in making independent decisions. Yet even as these decision-making capabilities improve, a Cold War history lesson reminds us that human involvement may still be needed to avoid intolerable consequences of incorrect AI decisions.

AI in the Boardroom: The Next Realm of Corporate Governance

Business has become too complex for boards and CEOs to make good decisions without intelligent systems. Just as artificial intelligence helps doctors use patient data to make better diagnoses and create individualized medical solutions, AI can help business leaders know more precisely which strategy and investments will provide exponential growth and value in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

Your Time Is Limited, So Choose Your Projects Wisely

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Making the right decision about which projects and partnerships to enter into seems like it should be easy. But it often isn’t. Being smart about where you devote your resources — your personal time, energy, and finances, as well as those of your organization — means being smart about not just time management, but about choice management. That means being proactive and disciplined about asking why you think a project is a good fit. It also means paying attention to your inner skeptic.

When People Don’t Trust Algorithms

Even when faced with evidence that an algorithm will deliver better results than human judgment, we consistently choose to follow our own minds. Why? MIT Sloan Management Review editor in chief Paul Michelman sat down with the University of Chicago’s Berkeley Dietvorst to find out.

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Harnessing the Secret Structure of Innovation

Innovation, much like marketing and human resources, can be made less reliant on artful intuition by using information in new ways. But this requires a change in perspective: We need to view innovation not as the product of luck or extraordinary vision but as the result of a deliberate search process.

Building a More Intelligent Enterprise

The authors examine how managers can combine a sophisticated understanding of human decision making with technology-enabled insights to make smarter choices in the face of uncertainty and complexity. Integrating the two streams of knowledge is not easy, but once management teams learn how to blend them, the advantages can be substantial.

A Leader’s List for 2017

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In the spirit of the resolution season, here is an incomplete list of my commitments to my organization, the people who compose it, and to you, our audience, without whom we do not exist.

Why Your Company Needs Data Translators

When it comes to putting data to use, communication — or rather, lack of it — between the data scientists and the executive decision makers can cause problems. The two sides often don’t speak the same language and may differ in their approach to and respect for data-based decisions. Given these challenges, organizations may need to call upon a “data translator” to improve how data is incorporated into decision making processes.

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Stop Jumping to Solutions!

When presented with complex decisions, many executives turn to the tried-and-true decision matrix, spelling out the pros and cons of various options. One flaw in this method, however, is that executives don’t take the time to thoroughly frame the decision and explore the full scope of options. But the matrix’s real value is when it is also used as a process tool that helps executives expand their set of options and criteria.

How Scenario Planning Influences Strategic Decisions

Anecdotal evidence suggests that considering various scenarios helps strengthen decision making. To test this idea, researchers offered a scenario-based workshop to executives to see how considering scenarios affected decisions. They found that though participants’ confidence in their choices never wavered, the strategic choices they made before the exercise often changed dramatically after viewing the scenarios, with a tendency to become more flexible and focused on long-term value.

“Information” vs “Communication”: The Battle to Influence Decision Making

Information and communications technologies (ICT) have revolutionized the way we work. But do we really understand their organizational impact? In recent research, Raffaella Sadun, Thomas S. Murphy Associate Professor of Business Administration in the Strategy Unit at Harvard Business School, argues that, in spite of the shared acronym, the effects of information technologies and communication technologies should not be lumped together. In fact, their influences within the enterprise not only differ but actually diverge.

Tradeoffs in Sustainability-Oriented Innovations

The 1987 UN document Our Common Future notes that sustainability means ensuring that future generations inherit an intact planet. If sustainability is framed as a tradeoff between business and society, addressing this tradeoff for the short term may actually exacerbate long-term problems — compromising sustainability. Firms that find a win-win between profits and planet but fail to consider intertemporal tradeoffs may cost the planet in the long term.

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What Companies Should Learn About Social Media From American Politics

The race for the U.S. presidential nomination is highlighting the increased fragmentation and polarization in American public life. An unprecedented number of candidates continue to stay in the race despite single-digit poll numbers. One reason may be that social media is giving candidates and their supporters an unrealistically optimistic perception of their chances of success — a situation with important implications for business.

Dare to be Digital: Transforming Your Workplace

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Research in 2014 and 2015 shows that the digital workplace is about a fundamentally different way of working, with distinctive behavioral norms. Influence, networks, and dynamic decisions become much more important than power, hierarchies, static decisions, processes, and rules — features that make sense in a slow-moving, traditional environment. As a result, making the transition from a traditional to a digital workplace can be challenging.

Better Decision Making with Objective Data is Impossible

“Our world is awash in data, and data is not the same thing as facts,” writes Boston College’s Sam Ransbotham. “While data seems to promise objectivity, instead it requires analysis — which is replete with subjective interpretation.” Ransbotham argues that while having data is a necessary step towards making objective decisions, it’s a myth that data is objective. Moreover, findings that counter current thinking provide organizations with opportunity for distinction, differentiation and advantage.

Staying in the Know

In an era of information overload, getting the right information is a challenge for time-pressed executives. How can they best distinguish usable information from distracting noise? New research argues that to remain appropriately and effectively knowledgeable, executives need a personal and organizational capability to continually “stay in the know.” And that means assembling and maintaining a “personal knowledge infrastructure” built on both technologies and conversation.

General Mills Builds Up Big Data to Answer Big Questions

General Mills brought a data scientist into its Consumer Insights group because it wanted to use its existing data more effectively. The company thought it was making decisions based too much on outside data at the expense of what it knew. But figuring out what the company actually knew about its consumers was the challenge facing Wayde Fleener as he came on board. In an interview with MIT SMR’s Michael Fitzgerald, Fleener talks about how he got started in building a Big Data practice within his division.

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